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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Bugged’ by Rental Firm, Headed for Arbitration

(CN) - A lawsuit alleging a family's home was infested by bed bugs from a trundle bed they rented from Rent-A-Center will be decided in arbitration, the 4th Circuit ruled.

Christine Seney and Antwan Seney claimed their son suffered bed bug bites from the wooden trundle bed and mattress they rented from Rent-A-Center. The company replaced the mattress, but the bed bugs remained, and when the company removed both the mattress and the bed, the bugs allegedly spread throughout the Seneys home.

Rent-A-Center paid to partially fumigate the Seneys home, but refused to treat the whole house.

The Seneys filed suit for breach of warranty in Maryland state court, and Rent-A-Center removed the case to federal court where a judge granted its motion to compel arbitration.

The rental agreement does not require binding arbitration as part of a consumer warranty, the Seneys argue.

Circuit Judge Diana Motz found on behalf of a three-judge panel that while the Seneys are correct, they failed to connect Rent-A-Center's warranty to the sale of the bed, and the arbitration ban the Seneys sought does not apply.

"Their contract with RAC required only that the Seneys rent the bed for two weeks, for an amount far below the purchase price. Because this transaction bears no indicia of a sale, we cannot treat it as such," Motz wrote.

The Seneys' contract with Rent-A-Center had an option where the company would transfer the bed's title to the family, and an option to buy the bed before six months had passed.

"To be sure, the Seneys could have exercised their renewal or purchase options, at which point they might have become so bound," Motz wrote. "But they had no obligation to exercise their options -- nor did they elect to do so."

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